70-210 and 80-200
a comparison of optics

Introduction
Explanation of comparisons
Summary and Conclusion
My Findings.
Choosing The Right Lens

Spend your money wisely.

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I started looking at my 35mm format lenses and noticed that I had several that fell into the 200mm range so just in case anyone wants to see the results of my testing 8 of them, this page has been created.

The way in which I conducted this test was brutal in that the lenses were used "totally naked" or without the use of filters or lens hoods, only allowed a single exposure, no second chance, with one exception (explained later) and at slow shutter speeds of 1/15 & 1/30.

The results will improve if faster speeds are used along with lens hoods and filters (polarizer), then several images from each lens are exposed to pick that lenses best F-Stop, but for my purposes on this test it was one shot, slow speed and totally naked.

For the group shot I used a Nikon/Nikkor 85mm PC f/2.8 @ f/11 lens, lens tilted slightly up, camera slightly down, placed the lenses on a slightly curved stage, left the filters and/or lens caps on some, and quickly aligned them. Other than that the picture is great. :)

The Nikon 18-200 and Nikon 70-210 are the only Auto-Focus lenses in the group. All other lenses are manual focus. I did however manually focus all of them.

The lenses in this test include;
Albinar 80-200mm ADG MC Macro Zoom f/3.9
Carl Zeiss Jena 70-210mm MC Macro Jenazoom II f/4.5-5.6
Nikon Nikkor AF 70-210mm f/4-5.6
Nikon Nikkor 80-200mm f/4-5
Nikon Nikkor AF-S ED G 18-200mm f/3-5.6
Soligor 70-210mm C/D MC Zoom+Macro f/3.5
Tokina AT-X SD 80-200mm f/2.8
Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm Macro Focusing Zoom VMC f/2.8-4.0

Full Test Scene... I decided not to include the high resolution images for this page and will do different tests later. The image below shows a small version of the full test scene. Highly magnified crops are included for your evaluation.
Gotta love the camera bag.

sorry about the setup... this was originally for my eyes, done quick and no thought
to lighting, content or composition. I was only looking at sharpness and bokeh.

Close up images... View all the images first and pick your favorites. Then hold your mouse over the image to see which lens your picked. The results may surprise you. I focused on the word HIT.

I sorted each group by showing my LEAST favorite first and MOST favorite last and have changed my mind several times. Some are so close it's hard to pick and your picks may very well be different. I DID downgrade for ghosting on some since it effects the perceptual sharpness.

Below 8 shot at f/5.6

Albinar 80-200 @ f/5.6
Albinar 80-200 @ f/5.6
Nikon 18-200 @ f/5.6
Nikon 18-200 @ f/5.6
Soligor 70-210 @ f/5.6
Soligor 70-210 @ f/5.6
Nikon 80-200 @ f/5.6
Nikon 80-200 @ f/5.6
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/5.6
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/5.6
Tokina 80-200 @ f5.6
Tokina 80-200 @ f5.6
Vivitar 70-210 @ 5.6
Vivitar 70-210 @ 5.6
Nikon 70-210 @ f/5.6
Nikon 70-210 @ f/5.6
 

Bellow 8 shot at f/8

Albinar 80-200 @ f/8
Albinar 80-200 @ f/8
Soligor 70-210 @ f/8
Soligor 70-210 @ f/8
Nikon 18-200 @ f/8
Nikon 18-200 @ f/8
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/8
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/8
Nikon 70-210 @ f/8
Nikon 70-210 @ f/8
Vivitar 70-210 @ f/8
Vivitar 70-210 @ f/8
Nikon 80-200 @ f/8
Nikon 80-200 @ f/8
Tokina 80-200 @ f/8
Tokina 80-200 @ f/8
 

Below 8 shot at f/5.6

Albinar 80-200 @ f/5.6
Albinar 80-200 @ f/5.6
Nikon 18-200 @ f/5.6
Nikon 18-200 @ f/5.6
Soligor 70-210 @ f/5.6
Soligor 70-210 @ f/5.6
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/5.6
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/5.6
Nikon 80-200 @ f/5.6
Nikon 80-200 @ f/5.6
Tokina 80-200 @ f/5.6
Tokina 80-200 @ f/5.6
Vivitar 70-210 @ f/5.6
Vivitar 70-210 @ f/5.6
Nikon 70-210 @ f/5.6
Nikon 70-210 @ f/5.6
 

Below 8 shot at f/8

Albinar 80-200 @ f/8
Albinar 80-200 @ f/8
Soligor 70-210 @ f/8
Soligor 70-210 @ f/8
Nikon 18-200 @ f/8
Nikon 18-200 @ f/8
Nikon 70-210 @ f/8
Nikon 70-210 @ f/8
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/8
Zeiss 70-210 @ f/8
Vivitar 70-210 @ f/8
Vivitar 70-210 @ f/8
Tokina 80-200 @ f/8
Tokina 80-200 @ f/8
Nikon 80-200 @ f/8
Nikon 80-200 @ f/8
 

There are 2 crops from each lens, one at f/5.6 and another at f/8 shot on a Nikon D90 camera. No sharpening, although I did adjust tone slightly. This test is more for sharpness, than anything else... I'm always looking for the sharpest lenses. I plan on other tests with these same lenses and a couple more.

My favorite lens (because of it's versatility) is the Nikon 18-200, but I'm a little disappointed with it's results on this test at f/5.6. At f/8 it's very good.

An interesting thing that I have never noticed is that when sorted by size, almost all the f/5.6 shots had smaller file sizes than those shot at f/8. This makes sense noticing that almost all those shot at f/8 had better color saturation and of course, more detail.

My personal favorite from this test is Nikon's 70-210 f/4-5.6, it super sharp and performs much better than most lenses I've used for color fringing or chromatic aberrations. The Tokina 80-200 & Nikon 80-200 close seconds. Zeiss, and not surprisingly, the Vivitar and Soligor performed very good.

AND THE ALBINAR, which I re-shot 3 times since I thought it couldn't be that bad, but yep, it is. It's only chance for survival is if it does ANY better "hooded" and "polarized" at f/11 or f/16, although I doubt it. So far it looks like it would be good for soft focus effects by using an old trick of applying Vaseline to the lens' filter, however in this case I would apply it directly to the front element, or you might hit the front element with a hammer for producing other special effects. In all actuality I'll probably scavenge the Nikon mount for another lens and give the elements to kids for magnifying glasses or include it in an eBay auction as a bonus.

Conclusions
If I need speed or limited depth of field I will carry the HEAVY Tokina f/2.8 and use the Nikon 70-210 for my general purpose lens. I will however, most of the time, have the Nikon 18-200 attached to my camera body since I can capture just about anything I want, in a hurry. If I have time I will definitely change lenses unless the 18-200 performs better in other tests. BTW, I had the 18-200's VR turned off while tripod mounted, which is recommended.

Choosing the right lens
When choosing a lens there are a few considerations;
size & weight, price, use and quality.
also see this

Size
If you hike to your subject you'll want a small lightweight lens. If you shoot studio only this will not matter. The Zeiss is perfect for this... very small, lightweight and very sharp.

Price
The price of these lenses range from $.99 (yes 99 cents) to about $1000's used. If price doesn't matter forget these lenses and get a constant aperture f/2.8 such as the Nikon 80-200 f/2.8, priced at $1,224.95 or the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 priced at $2,399.95. For the rest of us there are choices that are close, albeit no match. All but the Nikkor's and Tokina  lenses from this test are dirt cheap on eBay. The Soligor is a great lens, it is heavy, built like a tank and very sharp. Forget the Albinar!!! The Tokina is the fastest at f/2.8, heaviest and largest lens of this group... very nice. Vivitar makes great lenses called "Series 1" which are hard to beat at the prices you can buy them for used. Don't confuse them with the regular Vivitar lenses and run away from the new ones that have VIVITAR in big letters on the focusing/zoom ring. These newer Vivitar Series 1 lenses are cheap copies of the original Series 1 lenses.

Use
When considering your purchase think about how you plan on using it. If you need a lens for architectural work, you want a lens that can at least tilt, but if this your main use I highly recommend getting a view camera instead. You can buy a complete system for the price of a 35mm camera and a few lenses. Your images will be much sharper than you'll get out of any 35mm system and you'll be able to control your composition much better. The downfalls are the size & weight, usage requirements like tripod (a must) and the speed in which you can capture images.

My personal experiences have taught me that I can get better images out of a good lens and a good teleconveter than I can from a cheap lens with twice the focal length. Teleconveters allow you to increase the focal length of your lens but you'll want to get a top quality converter. Pay the price here for the very best you can afford since you'll use a good one often on several different lenses. Expect to pay $400-$500 for a top quality converter. I suggest getting the one that matches your main grouping of long lenses. I am heavily into Nikon equipment so I want Nikon converter. If you don't have the budget I have found the Vivitar 2x Teleconveter a "decent" alternative. I have never used a 3x teleconveter that I liked and probably never will.

If portraiture or low light is your main use then you'll want the fastest lens you can afford to limit the DOF and reduce the need for flash. On a 35mm system I suggest 120mm to 400mm for head shots, 80mm to 200mm for upper body shots and 60mm to 150mm for full body shots.

If close-up or "Macro/Micro" usage is the main goal you'll want a lens capable of capturing the intended image. For images up to about 1 to 1 (life-size) many lenses can get you there but may require an "extension tube". I love these lenses because they are usually the sharpest lenses and can focus much closer than a non-Macro/Micro lens. I also suggest manually focusing when doing Macro/Micro work and turning off your lenses vibration-reduction/stabilization (VR on Nikon) if applicable. I personally use a tiltable lens or a Bellows for most macro work if I have time due to the DOF altering capabilities. I prefer longer macro lenses because they allow me to be further away from my subject, which, when doing macro work, can be very close. If you have the time use a bellows for Macro/Micro and you'll have much greater control than you will have otherwise. NOTE: if you are purchasing a bellows I HIGHLY recommend getting one that has at least tilting capabilities. A bellows with tilting & shift (T/S) capabilities lets you use any lens as a "Perspective Control" optic so you don't have to spend so much for brand name T/S lenses. (Nikon's T/S lenses are about $2000 each and are only a single focal length, although they are truly awesome.)

If you have no special needs choose a lens for cost. Get the best you can afford. If you buy the very best lenses you'll usually be able to sell it in the future for what you pay for it now and maybe more. Unless you have a very special need for them I'd stay away from mid range zooms and get one of the lenses that can cover most situations like an 18mm-200mm zoom. You'll loose a bit of quality using zooms but the convenience is sometimes worth it.

If the lens needs to be VERY durable and has a high chance of destruction, get whatever your willing to loose if that happens. I'd get the Soligor in an instant for this. If you are going to take the ultimate care of your lens, get the best you can for your budget.

Quality
"You get what you pay for"... usually. (Brand name lenses are usually more expensive, although not always the best buy for your money.) The best lenses are "constant aperture" lenses, which only applies to zoom lenses. ("Constant aperture" means that as you change focal lengths the F-STOP stays constantly at the set F-STOP.) The fixed focal length lenses are call "prime" lenses. The faster the lens the better for 2 reasons; low light use and "Depth of Field" (DOF) control. 1. The faster the lens, the less light required to expose the image. 2. Fast lenses have a shallower DOF so you can better control the background and foreground's degree of focus.

Lenses come in a variety of materials, usually metal or plastic. Many new lenses are mostly plastic, while most older lenses are all metal. If size & weight are a concern you'll have to decide for yourself what is best, but for me it's metal if I can get it.

The quality of the glass in a lens is also a cost factor, that's one reason you can see so much difference in price for similar lenses.

Time and time again great lens makers like Canon, Leica, Nikon and Zeiss prove themselves with the highest quality lenses, which can cost over a million dollars EACH, so always get the best you can afford, unless it's for your child to play with, then get the Albinar. Top quality lenses go up in price, especially after they are discontinued, while mediocre lenses become paperweights. I have top quality lenses from the 1960's and earlier that I still use today and don't plan on ever selling, although they will sell for more than I paid for them new.

Sidenote
I am very disappointed that Nikon is making most new lenses in the "G" style. The "G" is NOT GOOD for my preferred style of shooting pictures. What "G" means is that you can no longer set an aperture manually since they took the ring completely off the lens. You can only use these lenses with newer cameras as they are just about useless on older, especially manual focus cameras. And in many, a large share of the material used in construction is plastic. boo-hoo :(

I never thought Nikon would let us life-long users down, and although they haven't completely, they're getting close. Many of the lenses I'd like to have are only in the "G" style and I won't buy a "G" lens unless it's a must have, such as the 18-200, which I HIGHLY recommend. Call Nikon and tell them "please don't take my apertures away"... (Almost sounds like an old Simon & Garfunkel song) ... and no more PLASTIC!!!
 

1-800-Nikon-US
1-800-645-6687

Kert Kley

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